A last minute conversion by Jimmy Gopperth from a Nathan Hughes' try gave Wasps a 20-20 draw with Toulouse.
Six months ago, Jimmy Gopperth landed the kick of the season, to take Wasps through to the semi-finals of the Champions Cup. On a sunny afternoon at the Stade Ernest Wallon, it was Gopperth who kept his nerve to convert Nathan Hughes’s 79th-minute try and secure a draw, which means Wasps end round 2 of the pool games on seven points - two behind Connacht, after their bonus point win over Zebre. Toulouse are in third place, on three points.
Wasps can count themselves lucky to have gone in level at halftime, after the home side dominated the first forty minutes. After conceding an early second half try, Wasps began to find their attacking fluency and drew level with Josh Bassett’s 62nd-minute score. Gael Fickou’s try, 12 minutes from time, appeared to have sealed a home victory, before Wasps’ late gamesaver.
Toulouse had the first attacking opportunity, after Wasps were ruled to have brought down a scrum, ten metres inside the home half. Toby Flood’s penalty found touch on the Wasps 22, and Toulouse took play through several phases, before the defence forced a knock-on, ten metres from the line. Wasps won possession, but Dan Robson was put under so much pressure that Wasps were driven back to their line, where they conceded a penalty, 13 metres in from the right touchline. Sebastien Bezy’s kick was well off target.
A wayward Toulouse pass, inside their own half, gave Wasps an attacking lineout 35 metres out, but possession was disrupted, resulting in a Toulouse scrum. They took play up to the Wasps 22, but offended at the breakdown, and Danny Cipriani’s penalty found touch on halfway. They won possession, but the attack broke down and possession was turned over, allowing Toulouse to go through a further series of phases, before they conceded another penalty on the Wasps 22. For around a minute, Wasps had been defending with 14 men, as Thomas Young was down, receiving treatment. After a break which tested the patience of the home crowd, he left the field, to be replaced by Guy Thompson, with 12 minutes gone.
Tommy Taylor then required treatment for a shoulder injury. He stayed on the field, but immediately delivered a scewed lineout throw and soon required further treatment. Play went on without him, with Toulouse throwing in to a lineout, 35 metres from their line. Although they won possession, Nathan Hughes emerged with the ball and made several metres before feeding Guy Thompson, who took play towards the 22, before Toulouse were penalised. Jimmy Gopperth’s kick opened the score, in the 18th minute.
Three minutes later, a Toulouse penalty took play into the Wasps 22. A slow, controlled driving lineout made its way towards the line, before it was stopped, at the cost of a penalty, 14 metres in from the right touchline. Bezy’s kick levelled the scores.
By now, Thomas Young was back on the field, but Wasps were forced into another replacement, when Tommy Taylor made way for Tom Cruse.
Toulouse continued to dominate territory and possession, and they went ahead on the half-hour, after Nathan Hughes broke from a scrum in the Wasps 22, but a breakdown penalty was conceded, right in front of the posts. Bezy’s mis-hit kick went over, to put his side ahead. That lead lasted barely a minute. After Danny Cipriani’s towering restart was knocked on, Wasps gathered and moved infield. Toulouse were penalised on the 22, and Jimmy Gopperth made no mistake, to draw things level at 6-6.
Three minutes before the break, Dan Robson found touch ten metres from the Toulouse line, to give Wasps their best attacking position of the half. Joe Launchbury stole possession and made a surge for the line, but Toby Flood won a turnover and a penalty, and the ball was cleared towards the 10-metre line. From the lineout, a high kick went up, which Wasps failed to control. Another penalty was kicked to the corner. Christian Wade was in position to cover, but it bounced off his leg, into touch-in-goal, giving Toulouse a 5-metre scrum, with 40 minutes showing on the clock.
Two free-kicks led to further scrums, before Wasps appeared to have driven their opponents backwards, only to be penalised for wheeling. Another scrum wheeled, but the referee ruled that it should simply go down again. Before the ball could go in, Wasps were again penalised. The next scrum was completed and Bezy made a dart for the line, but the Wasps defence held firm and the whistle blew for halftime. The 6-all scoreline hardly reflected a largely drab 40 minutes, but Wasps will have gone in the happier, after being on the back foot throughout and producing none of the flowing rugby which had characterised their start to the season.
The frustration of the home crowd was reflected in the chorus of boos and whistles which greeted Wasps as they returned for the second half. Two changes saw Guy Thompson back on for Thomas Young, and Marty Moore replacing Jake Cooper-Woolley.
Toulouse applied the early pressure, and it took a courageous tackle by Dan Robson to stop Christopher Tolofua, a few metres from the right corner. When play came back across the field, Christian Wade and Jimmy Gopperth combined to force Paul Perez into touch near the left corner. Wade then did well to make a mark from Maxime Medard’s chip, a metre from the line. He took the kick quickly and fed Danny Cipriani, who tried to break from defence. He was smothered, but Dan Robson’s clearance took Wasps 30 metres upfield. Toulouse won the lineout, and it took a timely interception by Josh Bassett to cut off a threatening attack on the right. Play came back infield, and Danny Cipriani tried an ambitious chip from behind the line. It was charged down and replacement prop Census Johnston crashed over near the posts. Bezy converted, to put the home side 13-6 ahead.
Wasps immediately produced their most fluent passage of play so far. They appeared to have created an overlap on the left, but the opportunity was lost, when a Toulouse hand seemed to deflect the ball behind Nathan Hughes, allowing the defence to press upfield and win a scrum put-in. Wasps won a penalty from the scrum, which they took quickly, but the ball was spilt, a few metres from the line.
A few minutes later, Christian Wade gathered a high ball near the right touchline, a few metres inside the Wasps half. He came infield and skipped past a series of tacklers, to launch their most sustained passage of play of the game. It again ended in frustration, when a penalty was conceded. Wasps were now beginning to play with real fluency, and Jimmy Gopperth came into the line, to break the defence. He had Guy Thompson unmarked on his inside, but the replacement was ruled to have knocked on, as he reached for a pass which had gone just behind him. The decision was made by the TMO, after it appeared that the ball may have come off a Toulouse hand.
With eighteen minutes left, Wasps conjured up the try they had been threatening, when a fine move, started by Christian Wade’s midfield run, ended with Josh Bassett sprinting in from 25 metres, for his fifth try in five games. Jimmy Gopperth landed a missable conversion to bring the scores level again.
By now, Joe Simpson, Kearnan Myall and Alapati Leiua had taken over from Dan Robson and Matt Symons, with Leiua coming on for try scorer Bassett, before the restart. Twelve minutes from time, Toulouse reclaimed the lead, when a series of thrusts from the forwards sucked in enough defenders for Gael Fickou to go through a gap and power over out on the left. Bezy’s conversion made it 20-13.
Tom Bristow replaced Matt Mullan, after 71 minutes, with Toulouse back on the offensive Sensing the chance to deny Wasps a bonus point, they began using the wide spaces and came close to a decisive score, when the ball was knocked on, five metres from the line.
With two minutes left, Wasps were throwing caution to the wind. Nathan Hughes broke from a scrum in their own half and sent Joe Simpson racing through midfield. With no support to his left, he was forced to come back infield. The ball was moved out to the right, and Hughes powered through a tackle to go over near the corner. Under enormous pressure, Jimmy Gopperth landed the conversion to level the scores. There was still time for a restart and Wasps were able to control the ball and play the clock down, before Danny Cipriani’s touch kick ended a dramatic afternoon.